Atletico Madrid moving forward by taking a step backwards

This season was always likely to be one of transition for Atletico Madrid, but Diego Simeone surely wanted to avoid the dips that saw the capital club spend much of the 2019/20 campaign outside of the top four. Indeed, the outlook for Atleti was bleak when the Spanish Liga season resumed after the coronavirus shutdown.

Since then, though, Atletico Madrid have found a rich vein of form and with Saturday’s 1-0 win over Real Betis Simeone took his side into the Champions League once again, with a top four finish now guaranteed. After a season which has seen Atleti fans pushed to the point of even questioning Simeone, this feels like an achievement after if, before the start of the campaign, it would have been the very minimum expected.

Simeone spoke about giving Atletico Madrid a new identity as a club and a team before the start of the season. Under the Argentine, Atleti had become the perfect manifestation of the underdog spirit, but it became harder and harder for Simeone to perpetuate this the more successful his side became. The construction of the club’s new state-of-the-art Wanda Metropolitano stadium also underlined their rise to the elite level of the game.

But by attempting to adopt a more expansive, dynamic style of play Simeone only managed to erode many of the principles that had raised Atletico Madrid to that stage in the first half. Toothless in attack and vulnerable at the back, Atleti went large periods of the season without offering much at all.

Now, though, they have reverted back to default. To move forward, Atleti have taken a step backwards by going back to what they know best. Their win over Real Betis on Saturday night was a largely dull and insipid affair, but it was a classic Atletico Madrid victory as they ground down their opponents. There have been a few of these sort of victories since the restart.

This might not be what Simeone envisages for Atletico Madrid’s long term future, but by going back to what he knows he has kept the club progressing. Champions League football will be back at the Wanda Metropolitano next season and with that the club has a platform to grow and evolve. Simeone has proved that the old Atleti are still in there somewhere.

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Atletico Madrid finally on the road to salvaging their season

The picture was bleak for Atletico Madrid as they returned to action after a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus shutdown. Diego Simeone’s side had endured a difficult campaign and faced an uphill battle to just finish in La Liga’s top four, securing their place in next season’s Champions League.

Now, though, things look a lot better. Atletico Madrid have found a vein of form, winning four of the five games they have played since La Liga’s return to lift themselves up to third place in the table. With the end of the season now coming into sight it appears the capital club will once again have a seat at the top table of the European game next season.

A few tweaks from Simeone have contributed to this change in fortune. Of course, the faltering form of those around Atletico Madrid has helped, with Real Sociedad and Getafe in particular struggling to pick up where they off in March, but the Argentine coach deserves credit for the changes he has made.

One major tweak has seen Marcos Llorente been converted into something of an attacker. Signed from Real Madrid last season, Llorente was initially used as a holding midfielder. His performance at Anfield, scoring twice to knock Liverpool out of the Champions League at the last 16 stage, seemingly opened Simeone’s mind to his attacking capabilities.

Llorente has been pushed higher up the pitch and has given Atletico Madrid a creative presence that they were previously lacking in the final third. His new role has added a new dimension to Simeone’s side, opening up space around the edge of the opposition box and in the penalty area. Atleti are a better balanced side now than they were at any other stage of the season.

Diego Costa has also found some form having had three full months to rest up, while Atletico Madrid’s defence is doing a better job of defending set pieces, giving Simeone a bedrock to build his team upon. All of a sudden, there is a structure and form to Atletico Madrid’s play again. They are a team unit again.

Of course, even if Atletico Madrid finish in the top four, this season cannot be considered a success. They targeted silverware before the start of the 2019/20 campaign. But they are finally on the road to salvaging something and giving themselves a platform again.

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Is this the year Atletico Madrid win the Champions League?

One team that will certainly be hoping that the football season is not abandoned and thus there being no Champions League is Atletico Madrid. The team led by the charismatic Diego Simeone played one of the very final competitive games when the Coronavirus struck and it was an important one. A great game that saw Atletico knock out the reigning champions Liverpool.

That victory, when the club were behind in the tie also took place at Anfield in a stunning extra time comeback that saw Atletico win the game 3-2. This against a Liverpool side who were the champions and have also dominated English football this season, 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League, unbeaten at Anfield in the league and only having lost one game. Everyone thought that Atletico were going to be knocked out that night, but the team showed a spirit by a foreign team on English turf not seen perhaps since Inter Milan visited Chelsea on their way to winning the Champions League themselves in 2010.

With Atletico through to the quarter finals and gaining every clubs respect in knocking out the champions, the onus was on Atletico, just how far could they go? Could they win the competition they so desperately want? Could 2020 finally be the year?

In recent years Atletico have reached 2 Champions League finals. Both times in 2014 and 2016 losing to their city rivals Real Madrid. Talk about adding salt to the wounds. And on both times Atletico were not beaten in 90 minutes. In one final they collapsed in extra time and in the other were beaten on penalties. It would be the 2014 final that would feel soul crushing for the club who were still coached by Simeone. After leading 1-0 they looked to have won it with just a couple of minutes of injury time left until Sergio Ramos sprung up from a corner and headed in the equaliser. Sheer joy for him and Real, sheer heartbreak for everyone associated with Atletico.

Of course it hasn’t just been in recent times that Atletico have challenged for Europe’s greatest prize. We could go as far back as 1974 when they reached the final for the first time. This time they were up against the mighty Bayern Munich who were on their way to winning 3 European Cups in a row and beat Atletico 4-0 in the final.

Atletico are a very good team, although them winning the Champions League would still feel like a surprise in many respects, simply because they have never won the competition. Not many ‘new teams’ have been able to win the competition. In fact since its inception for the 1992/93 season there has only been three teams who have won the competition for the first time. Marseille in 1993, Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Chelsea in 2012.

One just felt that 2020 could have Atletico’s name on it. After all beating Liverpool is a huge and Real Madrid currently look like they could be exiting the competition at the hands of Manchester City, with the return leg yet to be played.

The question is will the competition return? Let’s hope so, and there does seem to be a window in June where football could return properly, we will just have to see how events play themselves out over the next few weeks.

 

 

What has gone wrong for Atletico Madrid this season?

This was supposed to be the season where Atletico Madrid made their statement. A La Liga title was the objective. Quality players had been brought in, no less in Felix who cost over 120m euros,  and Diego Simeone looked upon as one of the best coaches in world football is still at the club.

It was a season where everyone thought Real Madrid are in transition. No matter if Zinedine Zidane is the coach, he left then came back, there is no Ronaldo, and times have changed, except for Real they haven’t and that is why they are currently top of the league. What about the threat of Barcelona? But they were thought to be maybe too long in the tooth, the same old tired midfield, Atletico happy to see Antoine Griezmann sold to them so they could get Felix, and surely from Atletico’s point of view they got the best years out of Griezmann anyway.

Then there is Lionel Messi, but he is 32 going on 33, the thinking from Atletico seemed legit, this was their time, except it wasn’t. As the season draws in they are 13 points behind Real Madrid and 10 behind Barcelona. And it gets worse than that, because they aren’t even in 3rd place, no Getafe currently hold that position, Getafe?, oh poor Atletico what went wrong?

Part of the problem seems to be uncertainty on and off the pitch. Saul Niguez has repeatedly been played out of position with Simeone insisting him to play in defence when he prefers to play in midfield as seen with the Spanish national side. Then there is Simeone’s assistant German ‘Mono’ Burgos who keeps getting linked away from the job- and it must be tempting for him to take on a full time coaches job elsewhere.

Felix as mentioned above is technically brilliant but the problem is his age. He has scored just 2 goals this season, that can almost be accepted if he is creating goals, but he has only been involved in one assist for the money paid that is a very poor return.

One player who has shone is Kieran Trippier who Atletico got from Tottenham. He has looked assured in defence and has made more assists than Felix which says a lot.

The game of course is all about goals and Atletico have scored just 22, that is 30 less than Barcelona and the same as Mallorca who are down in 17th place. The flip side of that is they have conceded 15 but they have won just 9 games from 22 played.

The worry for the club now is can they qualify for next seasons Champions League? Winning it this year will be hard given that they will play the current champions Liverpool in the knockout round. As far as qualifying through their league status they are just 3 points from 4th place so of course it is possible. But form really needs to get picked up as they have no wins in their last 3 games, their latest loss was a body blow too coming against city rivals Real Madrid.

Next weekend the club will play Granada at home, a game they should win but one senses like much of the their season they will somehow make heavy weather of it.

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Madrid derby is Zinedine Zidane’s chance to expose gulf between rivals

Last season, Real Madrid spent the majority of the campaign looking upwards at rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona above them in the table. Now, though, the dynamic has changed and it’s the Santiago Bernabeu outfit setting the pace at the top of La Liga while Atleti in particular toil their way through the season.

Indeed, it’s been a tough few months for Atletico Madrid. For the first time in his managerial career at the club, Diego Simeone is under real pressure. Even in the context of a difficult campaign, last week was especially tough for Atleti as they exited the Copa del Rey to lower league opposition and were held at home to Leganes, dropping them out of La Liga’s top four.

Simeone insists that he will come up with answers, but he’s been saying that for weeks. Atletico Madrid’s season continues to get worse and worse as they struggle with questions of identity and philosophy. Real Madrid, on the other hand, are getting better with every match they play, growing more and more confident and building more and more momentum.

It’s not that Zinedine Zidane has got his side playing exceptional football. Real Madrid are still labouring through matches, but they are winning through muscle memory. Take their recent victory over Sevilla, for instance. Real Madrid were second best for much of the game and yet still managed to claim three points.

This weekend’s Madrid derby presents Real Madrid with a chance to expose the gulf between themselves and one of their closest rivals. Atletico Madrid are at a low ebb, while the Santiago Bernabeu outfit are rising, currently holding a three-point lead at the top of the Spanish top flight.

While Atleti have struggled for a true goalscorer to lead the line, Karim Benzema is enjoying the season of his life for Real Madrid. The Frenchman has become Los Blancos’ figurehead in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo age, matching Lionel Messi in the race for this season’s Pichichi award.

Atletico Madrid have also had trouble in midfield, with Koke and Saul Niguez not delivering in the way Simeone had hoped. On the flip side, Real Madrid have benefited from the emergence of Fede Valverde, with Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric all rejuvenated. Every way you look at it, this weekend is set up for Real Madrid to provide a statement on the football landscape in Spain’s capital city.

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Atletico Madrid has its best chance at a LaLiga title in six years

Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid team has started its LaLiga campaign in the best possible fashion – three wins from its opening three games.

As such, Atleti is the only team with a 100% record in Spanish football’s top flight after just three games.

Coming up on his 8th year anniversary of being in charge at the club, Simeone will know that what they have achieved in the early stages of 2019/20 is no mean feat.

While Barcelona and Real Madrid have stumbled and stuttered over the early hurdles, Los Rojiblancos have gone about their business in a typical steady fashion. Continue reading

Difficult season ahead for Diego Simeone’s Atleti

Diego Simeone

They may have just broken their transfer record fee for Benfica’s Joao Felix but Atletico Madrid are facing a season of huge transition in 2019/20

Now almost eight years in charge at the club, Simeone could be facing one of his toughest years yet.

As well as Felix, Atleti have also brought in Marcos Llorente from their cross-city rivals and central-defender Felipe from FC Porto.

However, they have lost Rodri to Manchester City, Lucas Hernandez to FC Bayern in the Bundesliga, Gelson Martins to AS Monaco and, possibly most importantly of all, Diego Godin to Inter Milan in Serie A. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll also Continue reading

Why won’t Atletico Madrid let Griezmann join Barcelona?

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It was supposed to be easy. Atletico Madrid would sign Joao Felix and for the fee they paid they would recoup it back with the sale of long serving player Antoine Griezmann, except and to Griezmann’s surprise that isn’t quite happening.

Felix has arrived but Griezmann who was expected to join Barcelona is still with Atletico and the next part of the story sounds jarring. Griezmann failed to turn up for training for a recent session and the club have now fined him the maximum fine of 200,000 euros for doing so. Sure you can’t miss training but at the same time it was Griezmann who helped his club out last season by staying with them when he wanted to leave for Barcelona. He stayed out of loyalty after Atletico were handed a transfer ban and couldn’t buy any players to replace Griezmann.

Now with this situation it feels as if Griezmann’s career with Atletico one that has been brilliant could well end up turning sour. Surely no one at the club wants that, and what Atletico are doing is quite wrong.

So why have Barcelona been taking their time in buying him? The truth is that they couldn’t make a move until after July 1st because Griezmann’s contract buy out clause before then was set at the ludicrous price of 200m euros. But after July 1st because of his contract that asking price fell to 120m euros.

The next process was supposed to be easy and that was Barcelona coming in for Griezmann, except one week has gone by and there has been no contact from them. Because of this Atletico have acted on Griezmann who in his head is a Barca player and that is where the fine comes from.

This makes sense but at the same time the loyalty that the Frenchman has shown the club has to count for something, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

So will Barcelona come in for him? They should do but the delay is puzzling, perhaps they are thinking to delay the transfer and try and get a better deal in the region of 100m and not 120m, that could well be the thinking. As for Griezmann he will be livid with his current club and annoyed with possibly his new one for dragging this situation through the mud. He should be in theory sporting a Barca shirt right now, instead Griezmann is finding himself in football limbo with 200k less in the bank as a result.

 

Simeone to splash the cash in Atletico Madrid rebuilding project

Simeone

The La Liga Big Three look set for major changes this summer, with defending champions FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid all in line to make big moves in the transfer market.

Ernesto Valverde will look to add to the signing of Frenkie De Jong, with one or two big names, as he looks to ease the growing pressure on his position, while Zinedine Zidane has been essentially offered an open cheque book by club president Florentino Perez as he looks to make Los Blancos competitive again.

However, across the Spanish capital, Diego Simeone faces the biggest rebuilding challenge of his managerial career ahead of the 2019-20 season.

Continue reading

Atletico Madrid in the market for attacking options

Antoine Griezmann

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is set for a busy summer in the transfer market, with the biggest exodus of his time in charge in La Liga, expected in the coming months.

The Argentinian is set to remodel his side for 2019-20, with experienced players moving on and uncertainty surrounding other players in the squad.

Defenders Diego Godin and Filipe Luis look increasingly likely to leave in the summer, when their contracts expire at the Wanda Metropolitano.

That means defensive reinforcements are a priority, in particular a replacement for Godin, who has been central throughout Simeone’s time in charge.

There are doubts over the futures of Saul Niguez and Rodri, with Manchester City interested in both midfielders – however Simeone is unlikely to let either leave, having worked so hard to keep them away from Barcelona in the past 12 months.

The main issue, alongside Godin, could be finding a fresh attacker to partner Antoine Griezmann.

The French international has committed his own future to the club, after another round of speculation linking him with Barcelona.

However, the club are looking to part ways with controversial striker Diego Costa, after he received a eight game following a red card against Barcleona earlier this month.

Simeone has been standoffish on the subject, claiming the Spanish international deserved to be punished, but remained ambiguous as to whether or not he was actually guilty.

The club’s hierarchy appear to have now lost patience, and want to move Costa on, and are willing to take a cut price offer for the former Chelsea man.

Gelson Martins is set to make his loan move to Monaco a permanent one at the end of the season, with Luciano Vietto set to head off to Portugal as a makeweight in the deal.

Alvaro Morata’s loan looks set to stand, with Chelsea’s attempts to recall him early due to their transfer ban, set to be rebuffed by FIFA – however he could go back to London at the end of the 2019-20 season.

That leaves just Griezmann, Morata and Nikola Kalinic, who has also been linked with an exit, as Simeone’s only strikers, unless he can make a move.

Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi could be the ideal fit to replace Costa, and act as a foil for Griezmann, however Simeone will have to battle Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to bring the Argentinian international in.

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